Land reform minister Calle Schlettwein said the government is in a process of amending the resettlement policy to allow the diversification of farming activities.
Since its inception in 1991, the government resettlement programme has been faced with many challenges, among others, the illegal subleasing of farms by those resettled to the well-offs and well connected and the lack of farming knowledge and skills among those benefiting from the initiative. Responding to resettlement related questions posed by United Democratic Front (UDF) leader Apius !Auchab in parliament last week, Schlettwein said this diversification will include, inter alia poultry farming, horticulture, charcoal, bee-keeping production and agricultural tourism.
“I therefore, do not agree with the honourable member that government or the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform is undermining the productivity on resettlement farms but it may be partially true that farm monitoring for farm productivity might not have received the attention it deserves due to mainly two reasons, i.e. lack of expertise by then Ministry of Land Reform in the field of agriculture and budgetary constraints for both the former ministries of agriculture and of land reform that made it difficult for such monitoring to be adequately carried out,” he said.
He also said the ministry has now developed a comprehensive support package to ensure part of the draft national resettlement policy is in its final stage of development.
The four packages, he said include, the establishment of a start-up grant, infrastructure development and rehabilitation grant, technical support provision and the limited credit facility provision.
Similarly, Schlettwein said the National Land Conference of 2018 also resolved to develop a comprehensive support package for the productivity of resettlement farms.
However, he said Post Resettlement Support Programme (PRSP) has already been in place since 2009 where the ministry contributed N$30 million on a revolving fund.
Through this programme, beneficiaries were initially eligible for a loan amount of N$200 000 with collateral required at 4% interest rate to cater for the acquisition of large and small stock.
He said this has been a stumbling block for the resettlement farmers to increase productivity of their farming activities, hence stiffing diversification of the production systems on resettlement farms.
Schlettwein said the loan amount under the resettlement programme has since been increased to N$500 000 under the same conditions.
Furthermore, the agricultural minister said beneficiaries are eligible under the same programme for loans ranging from N$500 000 to N$1 million with collateral to promote diversification.
In recent years, he said the ministry also introduced a pre-settlement support package where farmers attend a compulsory training before they move onto their farms.
On the question related to the subleasing of resettlement farms, Schlettwein confirmed that the ministry is aware of such activities, a proper investigation was done, and allotment letters of those that were found to have subleasing without adequate reasons were withdrawn.
“Subleasing of resettlement farms is provided for under the agricultural commercial land reform act on condition that an application is submitted and approved by the minister responsible for land matters,” he said, adding both legal and illegal subleasing of resettlement farms are currently taking place in various regions where resettlement farms exist.
Synergy… The land reform ministry will soon table a bill to amend the resettlement policy to allow for the diversification of farming activities.